Quite possibly one of the most interesting paradoxes in my life is that I love to drive, but I hate commuting. There is something about the humdrum 20.3 miles - taking anywhere between 25 minutes and an hour and a half - that has me arriving at work each morning slightly comatose, fuzz-brained and desperate to remember exactly how I got there.
However, on a free day, I love nothing more than to get in my car and "go crazy" (as we call it in my family) - driving wherever the road and my heart take me... which is often to the coast where I can devour the atmosphere of the beach, the mountain top and the dense redwood forest, all within less than 5 lateral miles. And it is not always getting out of my car to enjoy the sights that I relish the most, but simply the drive - windows down, deep breaths, winding roads and amazing vistas.
From the time my sisters and I were very small, we were taught by our parents - in part, I think to keep car-sickness from developing - to look out the windows, watch our surroundings and point out the notable things we see. Now significantly older, we still enjoy a good game of "car bingo" and pointing out the wild flora and fauna that we pass along the road (much to the consternation of some of our friends).
Just two days ago, on my way in to the Oakland Temple, I was watching the hills as I drove through a valley and spotted several small groups of deer and a flock of close to 20 wild turkey. It made me wonder how many of my fellow drivers notice the prolific wildlife that surrounds us, the green of the hills that all this rain has allowed to linger a bit longer than years past or how breath-taking this little valley was, shrouded in mist with the occasional shaft of brilliant light finding its way to earth. It was a moment of peace for me, in the middle of thrumming suburbia. And a few days before that, I arrived at home and asked my parents if they wanted to go and see if we could find the two turkey toms I passed not long before I got home. We found them, both over three feet tall, grazing in the grass outside an office building a few miles away. A few brief moments, a few extra minutes in the car, all for a new exciting memory.
I've realized that in my monotonous weekday morning drives, instead of falling back to the wide-eyed wonder of that once-small child within, I gaze in ambivalence at the gently rounded rear of the vehicle in front of me, apparently trapped in a world of the unexceptional...
I forget to look up. What moments am I missing?
The times when I am reminded to raise my eyes, usually on my way home, I have noticed a world that was quite unlike the world I thought I drove through roughly 10 hours earlier. I once came around a bend in the freeway and was briefly blinded by a hill covered from foot to crown in millions of sunlit mustard blooms - a meadow I have driven past hundreds of times and never seen. On another stretch, I noticed a seemingly unlandscaped hill covered in yellow narcissus flowers - a sight my mom (having driven down to visit me for lunch) noticed instantly. When I lived in Utah, I would see the mountains, snow covered and reflecting every color of the sunset. I would see breaches in the inversion, streaming rays through to light up one small community in the valley. And once I saw a bald eagle lift off the edge of a small pond, right off the freeway in American Fork, sprinkled by flitting rays of sunlight.
These moments have become precious to me, moments when I choose to open my eyes and truly see, instead of sitting glassy-eyed waiting for the car in front of me to inch forward. I need to remember more often how quickly one small glimpse at this beautiful world we've been given can change the entire course of my day... To remember that good things, even great things, can be seen, heard and felt when I choose to raise my eyes and take in everything I see before me.
4 hours ago